The Second Osage Nation Congress passed two bills during its Oct. 4 session, one of which will expand the Gaming Commission from one to three members.

Ten Congress members unanimously passed ONCA 10-73, a bill sponsored by Congressman Mark Simms to expand the Gaming Commission. Also unanimously passed by Congress was ONCA 10-79 which is “An Act to Improve Congressional Oversight of the Osage Nation Gaming Enterprise.” Its sponsor is Congressman Geoffrey Standing Bear.

The Gaming Commission is in charge of handling and regulating the Osage Million Dollar Elm Casino’s gaming activities, licensure matters as well as background checks for its employees and any investigations involving those operations.

According to ONCA 10-73, the three-person Gaming Commission will be established along with a Commission Director and necessary staff. The commissioners will elect a chairman and vice chairman and will serve initial staggered terms. The Principal Chief will nominate the three prospective commissioners, who are all Osage citizens, whose appointments will be subject to confirmation by the Osage Nation Congress.

Before the vote for ONCA 10-73, Congresswoman Shannon Edwards spoke in support of the Gaming Commission expansion.

“I’ve always thought that there was a problem with having one gaming commissioner,” said Edwards, “the gaming commissioner was charged with investigating and perhaps bringing up certain charges and I didn’t see how an individual gaming commissioner could stand as both judge and jury, so to speak.”

The three-commissioner board will alleviate the problem of having the same person investigate and then judge the validity or the correctness of the investigations, Edwards said. She also approved of the new director position that will serve under the board.

Standing Bear co-sponsored ONCA 10-73 and noted: “This law (once passed by Congress and signed into law or reaffirmed by veto override – if necessary) still is not a law of the Osage Nation until the chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission approves it and under the federal (regulations) the chairman of the NIGC has 90 days to do so and if he doesn’t approve in 90 days, it automatically becomes federally approved. That gives the Chief and Assistant Chief time to look at some appointments because we’ll be operating under the existing code until it’s approved.”

Standing Bear sponsored ONCA 10-79 which calls for Congress to receive “more accurate information on the financial transactions of the Osage gaming operations.”

ONCA 10-79 amends the 2007 Osage Nation Gaming Reform Act and calls for the Congress, Principal Chief and Gaming Commission to receive an annual report from the Gaming Enterprise Board “no later than July 1 of each year, as well as monthly and quarterly financial reports for each gaming facility,” as well as any special reports to the government branches upon request.

Bills, budgets signed by the Chief’s office

Principal Chief John Red Eagle signed ONCA 10-73 into law Oct. 5. He also signed the 2011 fiscal year budget for his office operations Oct. 4.

Last week, Assistant Chief Scott BigHorse signed the Nation’s five other budget bills into law, as well as the bill which expands the life of the Health and Wellness Advisory Board for one more year and a $4 million bill to replenish the fund for the Nation’s $500 Health Benefit Card program for the 2011 calendar year.